IN light of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the National Basketball League (NBL)1 South Conference has been cancelled this year. As such, while Draft Central intended to do a preview on all teams leading up to the delayed start, it will instead be a team summary from last season and what they might look to improve on for 2021. Today’s edition looks at Kilsyth Cobras’ mens side that reached the finals series but were unfortunately bundled out in straight sets.
2019 in Review:
Finished: 4th (lost in semi-finals)
What went right:
- Six wins to open the season
- Defensive rebounds (28.5 per game, ranked fourth overall)
- Ball handling (11.4 turnovers per game, equal third least overall)
- Free-throw accuracy (74.2 per cent per game, ranked fourth overall)
- Beat eventual premiers, Nunawading Spectres twice
It was a tale of two halves within a half of the season for the Cobras, who started the year on a tear, opening the season with six wins to their name. They would show they meant business from the get-go, defeating eventual finalists, Bendigo Braves, Geelong Supercats and Melbourne Tigers in the opening run. A shock loss to last placed Sandringham Sabres ended the run, and it spun them into a losing streak before finishing the season with a respectable six wins from nine games – and a 12-point win to Dandenong in the final round – to book a double chance in the finals series. They beat eventual premiers, Nunawading Spectres twice during the year showing the calibre of talent on the Cobras’ list, and had a number of key indicators showing they could match it with the best. In season 2019, Kilsyth ranked equal third overall for least turnovers, as well as fourth overall for defensive rebounds and free-throw accuracy, showing they could hold onto the ball and get it done at both ends.
What went wrong:
- Five consecutive losses from Round 10-Round 14
- Finals series – bundled out in straight sets
- Blocks (1.8 per game, ranked 16th overall)
- Rebounding (9.3 offensive per game, ranked 17th overall and 36.3 total per game, ranked 16th overall)
Unfortunately for the Cobras, sneaking into fourth proved to be short-lasting, knocked out by Ballarat Miners and Bendigo Braves in successive weeks and head home early from the post-season series. It was the five consecutive losses mid-season that cost the Cobras an even higher spot on the table, but it would have been frustrating nonetheless to lose after such a promising season and knocking off a number of high quality teams. Statistically they lacked a little in both blocks and rebounding, ranked 16th overall for total rebounds – despite their impressive defensive work – due to their struggles up the offensive end (just 9.3 rebounds per game). They also ranked 16th overall for blocks, and with a number of 200-plus big men, it is an area that could be improved to prevent open looks for the opposition.
Whilst the team had its rebounding struggles, offensively, Smith-Milner was hardly to blame for that, ranking second overall in his side with almost two offensive rebounds per match. In his 21 games, he hauled in an average of 8.5 total rebounds, 1.6 more than his nearest teammate, and also had an equal second highest team points total of 15.5, as well as 2.0 assists and a steal per game. He recorded a team-high 56.9 per cent accuracy from two-point range, as well as 36 per cent accuracy from three-pointers and 70.9 per cent from the free-throw line. The dominant player on the court for the Cobras, and one of the key players across the league.
The consistent contributor across the board played 19 games and had an influence across a number of crucial areas. Hooley averaged 15.5 points per game, as well as 4.1 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.6 steals per game in an impressive season. He attempted the second most shots of any Cobras player, averaging 47.7 per cent from two-point range, and 72.9 per cent from the line. His three-throw shooting could improve at just 29.1 per cent, but he was best suited to the mid-range jumper. A crucial role in the transition play, and was the only player on the side with more than three assists on average.
Assisting Smith-Milner well off the boards, Patton was able to play his role in 21 games, and average 10.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. He had 1.8 per match up the offensive end, and a flat four down the defensive one, whilst picking up 2.2 assists as well. His accuracy could improve too, with a 43.5 per cent efficiency from two-point range (with the most attempts of any player from that range) and 29.1 per cent from three-points range. From the line he was solid with 68.3 per cent, and he averaged 21.9 minutes per game on-court last season.
Hard to believe he was just 18-years-old entering the season, but the teenager made quite an impact across 17 games for the Cobras. He played an average of 23.2 minutes per match in season 2019, and put up more than 10 points per game, as well as 2.2 rebounds and the second highest amount of assists on average in his side with three per game. Still young and with plenty of development left, Macdonald could easily develop into a starter in the coming years.
Christmas list for 2021:
Consistency. It is easy enough to say and can be a cop out, but it is true for the Cobras whose best was clearly good enough – you do not beat eventual premiers twice without the calibre to do so. They just faded at times and needed to play at their best for longer, but it could well be a belief or confidence aspect that will see them improve in 2021.
The Kilsyth Cobras still had a season from which they could look back and draw plenty of positive conclusions. They had a number of really impressive performers who could make further step ups in their career in a year’s time. If they can build their consistency and add an extra piece to the puzzle, then there is no reason why the Cobras cannot make it to the pointy end of the season again.